Reflecting on many changes in career

REWARDING: Departing Ashburton College principal Ross Preece looks forward to holidays, time with family, golf and fishing, as well as a professional role mentoring new principals.
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After 18 years as a school principal, Ross Preece is looking forward to being in holiday mode in February, something he’s never been able to do throughout his long career.

The 64-year-old has been at the helm of the college for seven years, following nine years at Whangamata Area School and two years at Murchison Area School.

His retirement plans include going fishing, playing golf, and spending time with his grandchildren.

In the middle of the year he plans to head to England to see one of his three adult children. His other two children are in Ashburton and Christchurch.

‘‘I’ve had seven happy years here and have seen lots of changes at Ashburton College, including changes to the curriculum, and the rebuild,’’ Preece said.

‘‘I turn 65 at the beginning of next year and with things settled here, I knew it was time to go.’’

Preece said education had been a rewarding career, but one he had not given much consideration to while at school himself. As he left secondary school, he was not sure what he wanted to do.

‘‘I knew I wasn’t good with my hands,’’ Preece said.

‘‘An old family friend said, given I got on well with people, I should consider teaching. So I applied for teachers’ college. I thought I would do it for a year or two and then move on to something else,’’ he said.

‘‘I realised that I liked being with the kids and that began my lifelong involvement in education.’’

Preece began teaching in primary schools, before moving to secondary schools.

One of his memories as a teacher was starting a media studies class, before media studies existed as a formal subject.

This was at Aranui High School in 1991.

Ross Preece says one of the biggest changes in education over the years, has been the advent and growth of social media.

‘‘I had complete freedom to be creative. As there was no curriculum to follow. We were fortunate to have lots of support from the NZ Broadcasting School at Christchurch Polytech.’’

Two of his former pupils from the course have made it big in the media world – Sunday presenter Miriama Kamo, and radio and television broadcaster Stacey Morrison.

Preece said he occasionally meets a student he has taught, and it was always nice to catch up with them. He had even been invited to a couple of 21st birthday celebrations of former students.

One of his former pupils, Tony Gilbert, was now on the Board of Trustees at Ashburton College.

He said one of the biggest changes in education over the years, had been the advent and growth of social media.

‘‘The recording of things and sharing them online has a huge influence on student wellbeing,’’ he said.

Issues young people faced outside of school had grown over the time. But the college worked hard to support students and their families dealing with such issues.

Ashburton College at present has 1270 students.

Over the last year, there had only been one exclusion of a student.

Preece was all about giving students a chance to change, and working with them to help this happen.

Preece will be continuing with some work in the education field, mentoring school principals in a role with Evaluation Associates which is contracted to the Ministry of Education.

‘‘There is a desperate need because the current stat in New Zealand is that 50 per cent of newly appointed principals aren’t lasting four years.’’